Childhood and Early Manhood
Though the Nilfgaardian throne was his by right of birth, it would be many long years before Emhyr var Emreis sat upon it. When he was but thirteen, an uprising engulfed the empire's capital. A usurper seized power, overthrowing Emhyr's father, Fergus var Emreis, who then refused to grant legitimacy to the coup. The usurper then decided he would break Fergus by having mages torture his son and heir, Emhyr. He failed in his plan, was forced to kill Fergus, and Emhyr escaped, presumably to a land beyond the empire's borders.
No reliable accounts of the emperor's actions in exile exist. Some claim he fell into the company of a knight errant, serving as his squire. This seems plausible enough, though the tales about the eccentric knight's proclivity to charge at windmills must surely be storytellers' exaggerations. A few unreliable reports claim a connection between Emhyr and the fabled Urcheon of Erlenwald who saved the life of King Roegner of Cintra. This seems far less likely, for it is public record that when the witcher Geralt of Rivia lifted the Urcheon's curse, he was revealed to be a duke named Duny, who later wed Roegner's daughter, Pavetta, and perished at her side when their ship went down at sea.
What is known for certain is that around the time of this great tragedy for the kingdom of Cintra, Emhyr reappeared in the empire and led a revolt to overthrow the usurper and restore his own birthright. Soon after he led the empire's armies in their successful conquest of Cintra, setting a tone of determined military expansion that would endure through the rest of his reign.